Here it is, a card with a picture so unique that Beckett Baseball Card Monthly used to list it in the magazine’s price guide as “Gus Zernial Baseballs.” Philadelphia Athletics homerun specialist Gus Zernial is portrayed giving the okay sign with a half dozen baseballs stuck to his bat. The bat commemorates his hitting six homeruns in a span of three games with the hand gesture turning the “6” into the “60” needed to tie Babe Ruth’s HR record. Not a fast runner, he still managed to make one of these round trips an inside-the-park job. A record seventh homer followed the day after the photo was taken, but perhaps adding another ball was overkill.
My card is terribly scratched up, an unfortunate flaw considering the photo is the card’s claim to fame. While there aren’t many cards from this set that I plan to upgrade, this is certainly one of them. However, the $2.50 purchase price makes it a much more palatable experience while I wait for the right copy to become available. For now, this one is okay.
October 2023 edit: I found a much better copy mixed in with a group of low grade 1950s commons I recently purchased. The new card (shown below) looks fantastic on the front with a small area of paper loss on the back making it technically in the same grade as the one it replaces. Note the color difference between the two cards. The scratched-up red back version has much lighter, vivid colors while the newly-added black back variety has darker printing. Zernial’s inexplicably pink undershirt is much more noticeable on the black back version. Both variations managed to misspell “Philadelphia” and “outfield” just below his name on the back of the card.
Zernial would continue to be a longball threat throughout his career. He hit 237 of them in 11 years, more than the career totals of other guys known for slugging like Kevin Mitchell and Josh Hamilton. Zernial’s homerun total came in only 4,562 plate appearances. Nobody ahead of him has as few appearances.
Zernial is the guy that hooked up Joe DiMaggio with Marilyn Monroe (sorry about that, Marilyn). The actress visited Zernial’s White Sox Spring Training camp and posed alongside the homerun-hitting outfielder for a series of publicity photos. Joe DiMaggio saw the photos and spoke with Zernial about them during an exhibition game. Zernial had the contact information for Monroe’s press agent and passed along the relevant phone number. Weeks later DiMaggio was dating Monroe (and no longer speaking with Zernial in typical DiMaggio fashion).